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The politics of toleration: Dissenters in Poland (1587-1648)

Wilson, Katherine Alina; (2005) The politics of toleration: Dissenters in Poland (1587-1648). Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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This thesis shows how religion and politics interacted inextricably in early modern society, by a study of the szlachta (nobility) in Great Poland under the first Waza kings, Zygmunt III (1587-1632) and Wladyslaw IV (1632-48). Both affirmed the 1573 Warsaw Confederation, ensuring all Christians freedom of confession as equal dissidentes de religione. In a Europe where wars were fought over religion, Polish toleration was exceptional, with implications for understanding the early modem church and state. Polish historiography traditionally sees the first half of the seventeenth century as the 'beginning of the end' for noble liberty including liberty of conscience, moving towards magnate oligarchy and Catholic domination, failure to reform leading to partition in the eighteenth century. This thesis shows that in Great Poland, such decline was not occurring under the first two Wazas. Regionalised govemment continued to function well in a diverse Commonwealth including Cossacks and German burghers, Jews and Muslims, by the 1630s the largest European state. Religious change following the Reformation in Europe has been reinterpreted as 'confessionalisation', most notably by Heinz Schilling for the German lands. This model sees the Protestant and Catholic reformations as parallel processes, and the correlation between the development of confessional churches and state building, as a fundamental process of social change, increasing political centralisation towards the formation of the modem state. I argue that the decentralised model of religious and political authority in Poland-Lithuania made confessionalisation with state building impossible; instead the state was built on toleration. The ideals of 1573 continued, without detriment to the Commonwealth. Great Poland, the westernmost region, is ideal to test where the limits of toleration lay in practice. Confessional diversity was affirmed in a province that welcomed immigrants, including the educational reformer Comenius. These integrated with an open elite that affirmed dissenters in religion, and active szlachta participation in govemment, into the mid-seventeenth century.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The politics of toleration: Dissenters in Poland (1587-1648)
Identifier: PQ ETD:602460
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1446535
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